Entering the dojo

The first lesson you will ever learn once you have been accepted into any karate school is how to enter and exit the dojo properly. Every dojo has a designated “front” of the dojo, this is referred to as the “Shomen” and regardless of how many times you enter or leave the dojo during the course of your daily training, you must always bow to the “Shomen” first. This is done by standing at the dojo entrance and facing towards the “Shomen”, be sure that your feet are together, keep your legs straight, your arms should be at your sides and touching the sides of your thighs, your hands should be open and facing downward along the seam of your gi with your fingers and thumb together. The entire bow should take only a few seconds, but it should be performed with the utmost courtesy and respect.
Should you ever find yourself entering or leaving the dojo with a large group of students, do not push or shove, but instead patiently wait your turn. If the opportunity presents its self always allow those senior students in the group to enter or exit the dojo first, since in a karate dojo everything is dictated by your rank within the dojo society.

Arriving late

In a karate dojo, as is it is in life, it is very bad manners to be late. Sometimes, however, this may be unavoidable, in which case you will be required to bow in quietly and then kneel in seiza just to one side of the dojo entrance. If you arrive while everyone else is also kneeling in seiza or reciting the dojo kun, do not make any noise what so ever, just wait quietly until the sensei acknowledges you and invites you to join the class. This may not happen right away, and it is important to remember that you must remain kneeling where you are until your are invited in. Once you are invited to join the class, you must first bow while still kneeling, then get up quickly and join the class by finding a place in the last row unless some other space is indicated to you. This may or may not be your normal place of rank within that particular class, but as I mentioned earlier, in a karate dojo  as in life, arriving late usually requires you to pay a price for your tardiness.
Absolutely no student will be permitted to join class if they arrive more than 10 mins late, unless you have previously notified the instructor.

The line up

At the beginning of each class you will hear the most senior student present call, “line up”. Upon hearing this command you must move quickly and quietly to stand in your appropriate place of rank within that particular class. Depending on the size of the class you will often find that your place within the rank of students will vary from class to class. This is to be expected since the more senior students there are in a class, the further down the line you will be. If you are ever required to start a new row due to the number of students ahead of you, be sure to start the row by standing behind the student on the extreme right end of the line in front of you, be sure that the line you start is of the same width as those in front of you, and that you are lined up directly behind the student in front of you.

Seiza

The “seiza” or “kneeling position” while a very common occurance, is used most often at the beginning and the end of each class, or when you are instructed to sit and watch a demonstration of some kind. To get into the seiza position from an attention stance, bend down on the balls of both feet then first place your left knee on the ground, then your right knee, then sit down and tuck your feet underneath you. Be sure and always keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed when sitting in seiza and your knees should be aligned with, but not touching, the knees of the person on your right or your left. Rest your open hands comfortably on the upper portion of your thighs with your fingers and thumb together and pointed slightly inward. Proper posture in seiza is very important, and for anatomical reasons male students should have about a 12 inch to 14 inch width between their knees, while female students should have their knees closer together.
Remember, you should never use your hands to get in or out of seiza.

Bowing in seiza

At the beginning of each class prior and to any form of training, the entire class will kneel in the seiza position and bow in turn to the Shomen and then to the sensei. The first bow is to the Shomen at the front of the dojo. This is done in rank order at the command, “Shomen ni rei” this first bow is done as a sign of deep respect to the memory of the long line of Masters and Sensei who came before you and who in turn passed the art of Shotokan karate down to your sensei. This second bow is to your sensei. This is done in rank order at the command, “Sensei ni rei” this done as a sign of deep respect to your sensei without whom there would be no dojo for you to train in and therefore no one who could pass the art of karate on to you. In return the sensei bows to the entire class as a sign of deep respect to the students who come to train, because without students to teach there would be no one for the sensei to pass his or her knowledge on to.
To perform a bow from the seiza position first move your left hand from your left thigh and on to the floor about two hand lengths out in front of your left knee with your finger tips pointed inward, then, slightly behind in time, move your right hand from your right thigh and on to the floor about two hand lengths out in front of your right knee with your finger tips pointed inward so that your right hand is facing your left hand so that your and your index fingers are slightly touching. Now without letting your elbows touch the floor lean forward and bow your head stopping this motion just short of touching the back of both your hands. The bow is done entirely from the waist and since it is a more formal way of bowing you should pause for slightly longer than you do when performing a standing bow. When coming up from the bow slide your hands back to their starting position in reverse order, that is your right hand first followed by your left hand and then sit up straight in a relaxed posture. Respect by all students regardless of their rank for the past, the present, and the future is the best way of assuring that the art of Shotokan karate will be spread in tact to the next generation.

Mokusoh

This is the command to meditate. When ”mokusoh” is called, you must close your eyes, lower your gaze, tuck your chin in towards your chest, relax and quietly begin taking long slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. It is important to learn to breath not just with the upper portion of your lungs but also from your lower abdomen or “hara” as the Japanese call it. Your “hara” is the lowest part of you abdomen and is located approximately three fingers widths below your navel. By learning to breath from here you will develop greater power and speed as your karate training progresses.
It is during this meditative process that you want to “quiet your mind” and to try and rid yourself of all thoughts unrelated to your karate training, you must seek to find an inner sense of peace, or a relaxed state of being, this will help you to stay focused through out the training that is about to begin.

Dojo Kun

After the ritual of bowing and mokusoh is complete the class will recite the “dojo kun”. The “dojo kun” can best be described as “a verbal affirmation” of certain principles or truths. You must make a point to learn your dojo’s creed as soon as possible and when reciting it always try and speak it in unison with the other students, but never so loudly that your own voice stands out from all the rest. It is important that you believe in what you say, and you must then use this belief to help you do your very best, not only in the training that lies ahead but also in your daily life outside of the dojo.

Etiquette during class

Once the training starts it is very important to put aside all unrelated thoughts. You must make every effort to only concentrate on the specific task at hand and especially on improving the quality of your own techniques.  
In the beginning this will be a very hard but you must push yourself both physical as well as mentally if your karate is ever going to improve. In short, “always do your best”. In fact, to do otherwise would be disrespectful not only to yourself, but also to your classmates and your instructor who have come to train with you.
When moving from one area of the dojo to another always do it quickly and quietly. When changing positions in line be sure not to cut through the lines or to pass in front of anyone else, instead go behind and around them. Whenever you watch a demonstration, do so respectfully and silently, without leaning on the walls or doing anything that would distract others. If you have a questions about any of the techniques that are being taught during class never call out, instead always raise you hand and wait to be acknowledged, then ask your question in the politest possible terms.
When training with a partner always be sure and bow properly before you begin and after you finish your training together. This applies every time you change partners regardless of their rank.

Clean up

After each class there is usually some cleaning required in the dojo.

Try and take and active part rather than sit back and watch others do the work. 

Exiting the dojo

When your class is finished be sure that you exit the dojo in the same manner as you entered it, with courtesy and respect.

Everyone starts at the bottom

Upon joining a karate dojo you will find that no one gets special treatment. Everyone starts at the bottom. By that I mean that even the President of a large company who may be well known and respected, or for that matter even your boss at your place of work; if he or she were to join your dojo they would find that despite their rank within the business community, even they can not simply join a dojo and without any previous training move to the head of the line just because of their status, or wealth outside of the dojo.

In a karate dojo everyone starts at the bottom – where you go from there is entirely up to you.